Results tagged “Civil Liberties” from Six Hours A Week: Adventures in American Exile

lady-justice.jpgIf my Senator is co-sponsoring the Justice Bill, he should be into protecting citizens of his own state from ongoing and pervasive civil liberties violations.

I don't have any sort of rescue fantasies, but wonder, who will have the courage and fortitude to help us out of this mess and ensure that no one has to endure anything like it again? If not my Senators (will Baucus demonstrate that he's not completely owned?), then who? Is there a Serpico in our midst? The UN? I mean, it's ridiculous. I've written so many letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and now I'm going on 2.5 years of virtual imprisonment in the U.S. I have to believe that someone out there cares more about justice and integrity than membership in an unprincipled patronage system. The reason the U.S. is assumed to be so great is because we supposedly don't need international observers or rescuers to swoop in and save its citizens from one another. Right?

Dear Senators Tester and Baucus,

I write because I need your assistance to combat pervasive and intractable corruption in our state. My mother and I have encountered judicial malfeasance, unfathomable corruption of the legal profession, and discriminatory, untruthful local law enforcement. We believe these overall gross violations of our rights have been made possible by lax regulation of intelligence contractors and agencies working in tandem with local agencies. In response to FOIA requests, I got the runaround from the FBI and a “Glomar” response from the NSA. The civil rights attorney I hired to help me ended up lying about which agencies he contacted and withholding documents. My mother and I cannot fight such insidious and pervasive interference in our lives alone.

We need the help of senators who are not afraid to upset the current balance of cronyism in Montana.  We are targets of entrenched Republican and Democrat interests seemingly because of our sex, religious affiliation (or lack thereof) and political affiliations and activities. It is very possible that local polluting industries have funded interference in my life at one time or another for at least ten years simply because I was part of a campaign to work with the union and management at Stone Container to stop poisonous dioxin emissions in our valley.

If you are courageous men who are not hemmed by the coal or any other lobby, if you are men who believe that human and civil rights extend to all people in your state and not just the back scratching elite, then please step up and help us. The current strategy seems to be to make the administrative and legal processes of seeking assistance so drawn out and impossible as to drain all of our energy and financial resources. We need men of conscience who truly believe in the best of democratic and republican ideals to keep their compact with the electorate and not the entrenched interests of a corrupt few.

About a year ago, I contacted Senator Tester and described some of the gross violations of my and my mother’s civil rights and liberties. He suggested that I contact local law enforcement. After many more months of harassment, and actual and attempted harm to our persons and property, we did finally contact the Missoula Police Department. We have come up against lies, evasion, and overall discriminatory treatment. Again, we need the help of individuals in a position of power who will use the position that the people of Montana have entrusted them with to take a stand against corruption and cronyism. Every effort is being made to ensure that we cannot do it on our own.

I request that representatives from each of your offices contact me so that we can find a way to work together to ensure that my mother and I emerge from this morass in one piece, and that no citizen of this state will ever have to endure such politically- and socially-motivated hijacking of supposedly neutral local and federal agencies again.

Senator Tester, as a co-sponsor of the Justice Act, I believe it would be unconscionable to leave two citizens of your state who have seemingly been victims of Patriot Act Excesses out in the cold.  We could easily serve as “poster children” for the necessity of reform. Please show us that your commitment to constitutional safeguards is more than mere talk.

Respectfully,


Kyeann Sayer

Did RAND Brand Me a "Terrorist"?

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21278.jpgCommuting in Los Angeles is an experiment. Just when you think you have a routine down that gets you home in under an hour, there's a surprise. You could find yourself cruising down the 10 and then suddenly at a standstill: that's right, Lakers at the Staples Center. As you're unexpectedly moving at a snail's pace one August morning you remember that it's time for the UCLA kids to clog the freeways and your commute time will double for the next four months. Many days accidents were the culprit. Often I would rely on a web site dedicated to traffic reporting to know when I should go home -- that such web sites exist illustrate how much traffic jams affect all of our lives every day.

Unpredictable, snarling traffic could be fodder for many an ethical discussion. If an ambulance can't reach me because of Lakers traffic, are the Lakers responsible? The Staples Center? The city planners?

The death and destruction related to automobiles is normal to us. There were 41,059 traffic-related fatalities in the US in 2007 alone. We've clearly collectively decided that this astounding loss of life is acceptable in our auto-centric culture.

Sometime while working with RAND I was at dinner discussing this with an acquaintance who worked in the office next to me. I'm not sure he was actually a friend. I believe he worked for Bruce Hoffman on some terrorism-related research but it could have been Brian Michael Jenkins -- I don't remember. He might have just been eliciting comments, as I now realize so many did in those years. We discussed Critical Mass, the bicycle protests where bicyclists flood the streets apparently to create an experience for drivers similar to the one they face every day. I had never taken part in one and am very unlikely to because I can barely ride a bike.  He said that people shouldn't take part because if they did, they might be responsible for emergency services not being able to get through to someone in need.

I agree that would be terrible, and if I were a part of any large event that was the obvious culprit in preventing someone from getting essential medical care I'd feel awful. But traffic is so random. We don't consider a Lakers game a terrorist event when the traffic jams caused by it result in delays in all our lives -- in emergency situations or not. So, people involved in Critical Mass, who are on their bicycles, on the street to point out how violent and destructive our car culture is (not only in terms of direct destruction of human life, but astronomical CO2 levels that affect not just local communities but the whole planet) should be held to some higher standard of responsibility because their purpose for being on the street en mass biking is political in nature? What about jams caused by political conventions? It's complicated territory.

At that restaurant in that moment in time I thought that taking the risk to take part in such a demonstration despite the fact that a concurrent fateful act might make it difficult to get an ambulance through would be worth it because overall it might draw attention to the manner in which our reliance on cars kills so many. But it was all hypothetical, because, as I alluded, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 21 and barely can. I had not intention of ever taking part in Critical Mass.

You would have thought I had approved of the most heinous atrocities known to man. By the end of that conversation my companion could barely look at me, and didn't speak to me much again. At first I thought it might have been simply that he was not used to being disagreed with, but came to believe that my comments about Critical Mass seemed to completely change his view of me -- like, change my category from nice friendly person to "bad person".
Montana Vigilantes.jpgThe more I think about Sergeant Richardson’s odd third person dictum that I only contact “the neighbors” (not specifying who) through my attorney, the more off the wall it seems. His approach doesn't seem legally or procedurally viable and provides a classic “Blame the Victim” case study.

When you are being systematically harassed, documentation becomes important. It's the culmination of incidences that create the overall picture. Not only is he not interested in receiving documentation or evidence so that he understands the overall situation. He is also intent on stigmatizing the peaceful, nonviolent response we have adopted to protect ourselves.

All of the communications with our neighbors have been very rational and measured attempts to deal with only a tiny fraction of the harassment or bizarre behavior we have encountered. Over the last six months, for example:

•    When we started using binoculars to identify license plates on the block in January, we wrote to all of the surrounding neighbors to let them know that we were doing so as a means of coping with an organized harassment campaign and had no desire to violate their privacy or make them uncomfortable in the neighborhood.

•    When there was flash photography in our back yard on a recent evening, I didn’t storm over and knock on doors. I sent emails requesting no further violations of our privacy.

•    When someone on the Ferguson property seemed to be calling my mother a “Motherf*cking p*ssy,” (seemingly John -- if it wasn't directed at her, then someone who did not respond to him and did not make a sound) I wrote requesting that we endure no further verbal assaults in our back yard. I also requested that they please notify us when our driveway was going to be blocked by renovation work at their property.

•    When my polite verbal requests to stop making unreasonable noise were ignored by the Goodmans one Sunday evening, I had not choice but to call the police -- they intervened and the loud banging stopped.

•    After a neighbor across the alley stared at/studied our property for about five minutes, I wrote an email inquiring about it.

•    When a young man on our block illegally parked a bus and commenced a loud and illegal construction/retrofitting project on it, I let him know what laws he was breaking. When he didn’t follow the law, I eventually contacted the police and they intervened. He moved the bus.

•    After another series of provocations from the Goodman household, we finally wrote to their landlords, copying them and a variety of government agencies.

In all of these cases, I have responded to illegal or inappropriate activity in a very calm, rational and legal manner. No one is forced to respond to an email or a letter. We write them to protect ourselves or ask about or document odd behavior.

These communications reflect only a teeny tiny fraction of what we've dealt with and don't begin to reflect the overall atmosphere of terror we've endured.

Why is the focus on my communication rather than the harassing behavior? Can a policeman tell a citizen that she is not allowed to send email or letters? Can a policeman dictate that a citizen only communicate through a lawyer? Not everyone can afford one. If individuals don’t wish to receive communication, shouldn’t they provide the contact information for their attorneys?

It seems that Sergeant Richardson is making up his own protocol as he goes along.  If we weren't dealing with nighttime photography, rude disregard for our lack of desire to endure Sunday evening construction, or disturbing tirades, we wouldn't have a need to contact our neighbors. We have to wonder why this public employee is so invested in blaming the victim here.

(The picture represents vigilante justice in Montana in the 1870s. It's thought that perhaps the vigilantes were actually committing many of the crimes they were punishing... It has often felt, over the past two years (and especially in the last month), that a very thin veil of civility has prevented us from falling victim to such a fate. The "New West" isn't so new.)

~~

Seeing Beyond the Dark Side

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091207-sub-court-house-1776.jpgAs we have all learned that the last administration achieved a “paper coup,” there has been much focus on John Yoo and his unconstitutional OLC memos. Reading a passage about Yoo in Jane Meyer's The Dark Side reiterated how important it is, when addressing issues of public policy and the foundations of our republic, to temper lessons learned from personal experience with objective, reasoned argument from other quarters. Mayer tells us:

Quite directly, Yoo’s family owed its freedom and prosperity to Harry Truman’s controversial decision to wage the Korean War without obtaining congressional authorization. Had Truman not used military force, without Congress’s permission, Yoo reflected on occasion, he would not have attended Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, nor, like so many other immigrants to America, had the fortune to have escaped Communism (Mayer, 65).
This experience would give Yoo a truly unique viewpoint. One can understand why he would want to ensure that Americans’ freedoms couldn’t be curtailed by a threat like Al Quaeda. But the possibility of his applying his own experience to legal opinions that affected every American by razing all that makes the U.S. the U.S. is terrifying. Quirks of history and fate are just those.

I know what it’s like to advocate for issues based on my own experience with extreme sexism and homophobia, the mistreatment of animals/amoral science, and environmental disregard, for example. But working for the public good involves maturing into an understanding that your experience does not represent everyone’s, and the purpose of government is to serve all of us, with our unique backgrounds and perspectives. Of course our experience defines how we operate in the world, but we should always strive to see just beyond it, to understand how our own points of view are limited.

One of the reasons for the balance of powers is to ensure that individual or small group experiences don’t get to define reality for all of us. That the Bush/Cheney cabal attempted to remake the world in its own image to such a degree is the crux of its dangerous radicalism.

Tolerating Religious Diversity vs. Endorsing Terrorism

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drawing.jpgWhen you’ve been terrorized by a group of people, how do you refuse to tolerate their tactics without losing sight of their humanity? Before spending a lot of time discussing this on Monday I didn’t realize that this was a central question I’d been grappling with.

For a long while, each interaction with individual participants in the anti-Kyeann and Mom terror campaign was painfully taxing. How could this person hate me bad enough to poison my food? Try to upset me while cutting my hair? Ridicule me based on private information he never should have been able to access? Take part in an entrapment scheme? Place listening or viewing devices in my home? Stalk me?

There have been a variety of players with a variety of motivations but it’s clear that there is a small army of extreme right wing zealots in our city, ready to be activated to terrorize people when given the go-ahead. It’s also clear that in our case this is a culmination of years of ideologically based harassment. What they have taken part in recently is the dictionary definition of terrorism: “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”

Netroots: What Did You Expect from Obama?

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clinton-drawing.jpgI haven't blogged in a while, as I've needed every spare hour to piece my life back together after surviving a 4th Amendment-free year.

This Wired article inspired me, though
. Netroots activists are pissed at Obama's FISA flip-flop. So was I.  I'm glad that MoveOn and the independent activists who have generated support and money for Obama are trying to use their leverage to influence him now. But why did they hop on the "Change" bandwagon so nimbly and readily in the first place?

Though Hillary lost my primary vote once and for all when she didn't bother to show up for the February FISA vote, I wasn't ready to throw myself into the Obama camp. In fact, I'll be so self-congratulatory as to quote my February self:

If you're feeling the warm and fuzzy Obama-as-second-coming vibe, I hope you'll cool down and make sure he knows that you're in his corner because he believes that a renewed America means an unwavering devotion to our founding documents. "Change" must mean the restoration of our democracy.
Later, I hoped that action on the Homegrown Terrorism Bill might prove a decent litmus test. Nope.

I remember feeling bummed when I received the MoveOn endorsement ballot. Shouldn't there have been a set of criteria? Why just give away the endorsement without it meaning anything? And then, why continue to flood our inboxes with the cheer leading Obama "Change" rhetoric?
When we suddenly say we're all about Obama and "Change" don't we put ourselves in a sort of ridiculous predicament? For one, we assume that people can't be motivated to vote with the truth: the man is a politician. No matter how noble his intentions, we can bet that many of his life decisions (like turning down lucrative positions to move to an electorally significant state to create a grassroots support base) have been calculated. He will disappoint us because he can't possibly be all things to all Americans. Just because he may be the best option right now doesn't mean we have to leap into absurd fairy tale rhetoric about his somehow having magical powers to enact sweeping change. Once we give over to the rhetoric, anything he does to deviate from our fantasies of what he stands for invariably disappoints.

We've already been to a place called Hope. Young voters don't know what it's like to have a preternatural politician grab their hearts with rhetoric and then become a whopping, co-opted, double talking disappointment. Are our memories so short? Do we really want to do that again and lead another generation to the kind of apathy that allowed the current administration to enter the White House?

Let's be honest. An Obama administration will mean a world of difference no matter what. But he's a politician. We are the change agents. We can't just walk to a voting booth, dimple a chad, and expect America to be a safer, fairer, more just place. We have to change. We have to get out of our comfort zones, and remain active, engaged citizens.

The moment our 4th Amendment protections truly become more important to Americans than our sofa patterns or TV schedules, we will see what change means.

~~

Veterans Should be Revered

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walter reed.jpegI don't know many veterans yet. I will. 

Surviving a year of intense government-sanctioned spying has changed me. Post-traumatic feelings of safety and trust will be hard-won. The pain of constant betrayal twinned with the stigma of seeming crazy to those who can't fathom it are difficult to describe.  

So, I know how much this has impacted my life and how much time and effort it will take to recover, and how I'd just like to live in a spa for six months. Looking at it in relative terms, I was under a sort of cushy guerrilla house arrest -- as long as I was at home and not being manipulated or lied to by "friends" I was safe (though constantly monitored). 

I was never cold or hungry or exposed to depleted uranium, or dodging sniper fire. I didn't have to see friends and civilians killed, or hear agonized screams and cries. I wasn't required to kill.

Imagine recovering from combat. How do people come home to their families after facing such unending stress and horrors? How do they ever find "normal" again? Deal with becoming disabled and struggling to pay the bills, or being stuck at Walter Reed? We have over 300,000 troops suffering from PTSD and a veteran suicide epidemic.

Veterans should never have to want for anything again. They should finish their days in absolute comfort, have the best medical and psychological care, housing credits, and scholarships for their children. Veterans should not be homeless. That it took domestic, government-sanctioned repression for me to "get" to some small degree what it would be like to recover from military work is one of many unexpected gifts and ironies.

Government-Funded Porn!

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Carrie_Chapman_Catt.jpgSince puberty I've struggled with two major sexuality-related themes: how to be both smart and happily sexual, and how to get out from under the culturally-ingrained notion of my sexuality as some sort of commodity.

Ironically, my sexuality seems to have literally become a commodity in the form of tape(s) purchased by government contractors. The reason? My environmentally- and rights-preoccupied brain.

While all of this surveillance/harassment has been happening in the last year, I've constantly tried to piece together why. Now a number of events have made clear that at least part of it was an aspect of the $250 million anti-environmental PR industry that was trying to recruit me. This makes so much more sense than a variety of other explanations, and actually makes me feel a lot more hopeful about the dismal state of civil liberties in the U.S. I wasn't targeted just because of my political beliefs, but because of my very specific theory/activism/PR skill set, and the fact that my course of study had the potential to do great damage to anti-environmental PR efforts.

Now it has. After circumventing Herculean efforts to prevent me from filing my thesis for May graduation, I released a shortened version of it to a variety of journalists. The work exposes Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus as very likely funded by anti-environmental industries (there's a link to it at the bottom of this post). After their work is investigated, I have very little doubt that they and others will be discredited. Of course, this means that I must be discredited too.

Since efforts to frame me as a would-be assassin or entrap me using drugs have failed, I do expect that some day the compromising images I've been taunted with repeatedly over the last year will make their way onto the Internet.

What's on the Entrapment Menu?

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Benjamin_Franklin.jpgSince I've revealed that I have traced the IP addresses of two individuals who I believe to be Booz, Allen, Hamilton employees, and that I want to document the hacking of at least two of my computers, the stress in my life has compounded. Last week was a bad week.

Among a lot of ridiculousness: a (formerly) trusted individual tried to get me to admit to smoking pot (it was one of the most bizarre and awkward conversations ever -- he was clearly taping it). Now, this is odd, since the person already knew I was not a pot smoker. Last summer, when the hellish aspect of this adventure began, pot smoke wafted into my Las Vegas hotel room through the vent of an adjoining room, ala that scene with the hotel reviewer in Ocean's 13. This wasn't "The people next door are toking up" smoke. This was, "My God! It's like my bedspread has been sprayed by a skunk!" smoke. I called the front desk. So much weird stuff had happened, we just wanted to let them know that we were not the source.

As with the case of the gun opinions solicitation, someone trying to elicit drug use confessions makes me nervous. I can probably count on both hands all of the times in my life I've used pot. It messes up my head (I can't think well for days after), so I avoid it. On a few occasions I've eaten pot brownies. I have never done any heavier drugs. I have never purchased any drugs besides alcohol. I smoke cigarettes occasionally after a few drinks. Since I've lost so much weight from the stress of all of this I've discovered my tolerance is tiny, and I don't like to be in any way out of control, so I don't drink.

On Friday, after my dentist appointment, I opened my car to see that the plastic covering for the seat adjustment area on the left side had recently been tampered with. It was pulled away from the seat, and there were little shavings where other bits had been pried open. We still haven't been able to replace it properly. I don't know if something was removed or added. But the fact that individuals are clearly able to enter my car without alarming passers-by (obviously not setting off the car alarm) makes me worry about this drug thing.

After the Vegas fiasco, I told people I was scared that the pot wafting was some form of entrapment -- that our room would be entered and drugs would be "found." Most said that it would be such a minor infraction that I shouldn't worry. Now I am worried. Will it be planted in my car? What next?

I start thinking things like, "Did that guy on Digg who always dugg my stories and sent me marijuana legalization stories to digg in kind have some ulterior motive?" It's amazing how events like this force you to examine everything with a fine-toothed comb. Clearly, thinking the "drug war" is wasteful and leads to far too many unnecessary incarcerations is different from wanting to justify any sort of addiction.

When I can step back out of my own stress, it is fascinating to see how this all works: the mechanisms of fear and intimidation. How many people is this happening to?

~~
MartinLutherKingJr.jpgToday there has been much reflection on MLK's assassination. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be alive then, losing both him and RFK in quick succession.

Someone also asked today what would have been "done about Bush" in an earlier era (meaning -- how he would have been violently overthrown). I think these sort of questions miss the point, and are very contrary to Dr. King's Gandhian and Christian teachings. 

There have been extraordinary abuses of power in the White House, but the people -- citizens in all strata of society -- have allowed them. We have not held our leaders accountable. Taking one man's life would not add a bit of good to the world or correct a corrupt system. In fact, I imagine that any sort of attempt on anyone in the White House would only result in more draconian security measures and civil liberties abuses.

I don't think I actually condone killing of any sort except in extreme self-defense, if I felt my life was in danger (even then, we're in very theoretical territory here -- my fingernails are my most viable weapon). When a friend and I once discussed the possibility of my learning to use a gun, I could only imagine doing so in self-defense, to injure, which apparently is an unrealistic expectation (I have never been so scoffed at in all my life, actually).
I don't remember having handled a gun since I shot a sparrow's eye out with a BB-gun at around age 8. I had to put it out of its misery and felt guilty for weeks.

One of the people who recently entered my life under false pretenses did a lot of talking about a friend of hers who runs a gun control organization out of the U.K. -- brought her up every time we met. Like much of what she said, this apparently was designed to elicit some sort of incriminating self-disclosure from me (instead, I expressed interest in interning with the organization before commencing the study of human rights law). Reflecting on her motivations makes me want to be very clear in case my passions for civil liberties and civil rights have been misunderstood.

When it comes to "martyr-like" characters responding to fascism (and we in the U.S. luckily still have the opportunity to ensure we don't go Germany's route), I would relate much more to Sophie Scholl than
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose story a friend introduced me to last fall). Scholl expressed her political views in a rather unobtrusive manner, trying to influence through words, and was subjected to a kangaroo court and then execution. An example was made of her and two others in the White Rose resistance. I admire her courage, fortitude, and loyalty and would expect nothing less of myself. I strive to be the kind of person who would have the will to face my fate with such resolve.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, was a Protestant minister who was part of the resistance that attempted to assassinate Hitler. At this point, the war was raging on, and, the way I see it, this was more of a tactical/militaristic decision. For him it was also one of faith. I have no military training, or mind, and would certainly be the last person to ever do well in any such undertaking. I can see the value of having Hitler gone, but don't see how that situation at all applies to our current one. Again, we are still in a place where we have the ability to prevent something like Nazi Germany from fully flowering on U.S. soil.

King's sentiment seems the most effective:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

People are at the heart of King's dream. We aren't meant to kill them to get there.

~~
edvarner.jpgI saw Obama slide this one by in the Vegas debate. Romney spouted it at the Reagan Library (I think -- they're all starting to run together), this notion that relying on nuclear power will somehow benefit national security through reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

This is very simple.

Most of the petroleum we import goes into our gas tanks. ONLY 1.6% OF OUR ELECTRICITY WAS GENERATED BY PETROLEUM IN 2006. That number is projected to stay the same through 2030. 

So: using nuclear energy has little to do with reducing dependence on foreign oil. It would increase our dependence on foreign uranium, which has its own host of national security implications.

Citizens have a right to basic information on questions of energy dependence and national security. In a democracy we rely on the media to do its job and challenge candidates when they make erroneous connections. Especially when such connections benefit the nuclear industry rather than the rest of us.

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vc77.jpgYes, the FISA debate is still upon us and I hope you've written like mad to your Senators.

But we must not forget about S1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. (Too much of a mouthful? Follow ReasonableCitizen's lead and call it the AQ (or Anti-Quaker) Bill.) Below you'll find all the latest news as well as highlights of oppositional outcry from Sacramento to Atlanta.
 
Remarkably, in an apparent reaction to vast and sustained criticism, the Committee on Homeland Security released this Fact Sheet in December. (The Center for Constitutional Rights has a Fact sheet of its own here.  After reading it you can sign the anti- petition if it will make you feel better.)

Some folks seemed to think the bill was dead, but it clearly is not. I do think we have some time before it hits the Senate floor, however. My Senator, who is on the Homeland Security Committee, wasn't familiar with it when we spoke last week. If your Senator is also on that Committee, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is asking you to meet with his or her aides.

And now, many smart reasons to fight this bill as though our Constitutional rights depended on it (Oh wait... They do...):
constitution-m.jpgMy six hours over the last two weeks were concentrated on civil rights movement immersion (through lectures and documentaries) and meeting my Montana Senator, Jon Tester.

Those two tracks merged last Friday at a Montana Human Rights Network MLK Day benefit. I got to shake my Senator's hand, chat, and give him a fact sheet on the full-on terrifying Homegrown Terrorism Bill. Meeting him was actually thrilling -- rarely have I so respected someone representing me.

Senator Tester assured me he's going to fight against Telecom immunity. He also opposes Real ID, along with Governor Schweitzer (who's turned out to be quite a bad-ass on this issue). He hasn't had the opportunity to dig into the ramifications of the Homegrown Terrorism bill yet, but I trust that he will find it as problematic as most of us do. (After all, the bill's vague language would have labeled Dr. King a terrorist.)

I also believe that Americans will come together to fight for our privacy and basic civil liberties/rights. Dr. King and so many nameless, faceless people gave their time and lives so that minorities would have access to the opportunities our Constitution affords. Now all of us stand to lose them. Those liberties are worth fighting and dying for. So even if in the short time we see our White House criminals get away with monitoring and spying on us, and using double-talk to scare us into giving up our rights, I know that we can make the integrity of our Constitution a campaign issue. I know that we will stand up and write letters and march and fight until we see an America worthy of Dr. King's dream.

~~ Senator Tester
     Montana Human Rights Network

Intolerance Is A Bigger Threat Than Terrorism

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policeman.jpgAccording to the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, between 1968 and today there were 554 incidents of terrorism perpetuated against the United States domestically and internationally.

Last week's FBI report tells us
, in the year 2006 alone, with only 12,600 of the nation’s more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies reporting, there were around 7,500 hate crime incidents.

I've never been a big fan of the "hate crime" designation because of worries about the potential for anti-Bushisms to become "hate speech" for example. But one thing seems clear: intolerance is a much greater threat to America than "terrorism."

“Low Hanging Fruit” Vs. “Strange Fruit”

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tree drawing.jpgWhen it comes to my government’s intelligence agencies, I am, and likely always will remain, “low hanging fruit.”

Until last week I had scarcely heard the expression. Then two lawyers in two different offices separately described me thusly just hours apart on the same day. The phrase has been pinging around my brain’s background circuitry like a pinball ever since.

What does it conjure? A well-endowed gay friend made me laugh when he claimed to share the designation… Sometimes I imagine an easy-to-reach banana with my head on it…


Nazi Germany: Climate Change Lessons

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german forest.JPG Those of us who are stepping up to the climate change challenge must devote as much energy to civil liberties issues as we do to energy policy. If we don't, we may wake up one day soon in an America we don't recognize, and find ourselves unable to enforce even the most watered down carbon reduction schemes.

There are clearly many differences between our society today and Germany in the 1930s, but some similarities bear comparison. Unlike the Germans, we have the benefit of history.

In the 1930s, many middle-class Germans were dedicated conservationists with regional hiking clubs boasting thousands of local members. The National Socialists didn't just turn Germany into a fascist state over night: they gradually and legally seized power over a period of years. The outcome was not inevitable. As Thomas Lekan notes in his study of environmentalism in the Rhineland region, Imagining the Nation in Nature, it was important to win over the nature-loving demographic during the consolidation of power. In 1935 the Nazis made their dreams come true by passing the national Reich Nature Protection Law and making Germany the most progressive among industrialized nations in regard to landscape planning and conservation, according to Charles Closmann's essay in How Green Were the Nazis?


What does this have to do with us in the United States right now, you ask?

Reading The End of America

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End of America.jpgNaomi Wolf's The End of America is an essential tool. Every U.S. resident should read it. Yes, it has flaws, but they hardly diminish the book's impact. Please read it. ASAP. I finished it over the weekend: 155 pages and not very dense.

One of the great things about Wolf's call-to-action pamphlet is that, without succumbing to conspiracy theory or hyperbole, it paints a dire picture of the ways our civil liberties have been trampled in the last six years. Rhetorical comparisons between Bush and Hitler have always irritated me -- there's no quicker way to lose credibility than to throw the world "fascist" around willy-nilly. Wolf is careful, however. She compares ours with societies that have experienced "fascist shifts," and the "echoes" she identifies are quite resonant. Whether or not the steps taken by the Bush administration have been deliberate, we should be in a state of alarm.

To get a quick look at ten steps that fascist regimes take, and how our administration's actions fit, take a gander at this April Guardian article.

I do think that The End of America would have a broader appeal if it acknowledged explicitly from the outset that Americans have not experienced "liberty" equally. Noting the inequalities that were built into the Constitution, the run of the mill rights violations that are connected to racial and economic disparity, and the way in which the FBI has historically violated individuals' rights as a matter of practice would not diminish her argument.

Really, Wolf's is the privileged perspective of someone who (like yours truly) has always taken her rights for granted. But the fact of her alarm is telling. If an elite, white, former Rhodes Scholar is gravely concerned about her own basic liberties, the possibility of an America truly committed to justice and equality may truly be on the wane.

Read it!

~~ The End of America

Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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